Update, and How to Be When People You Care About Need Your Help

Hello, world!
I’m still in a mad spiral as I sort out everything to do with my loan, and then I can slowly segue back to mostly-broke time-on-her-hands Steff that brings you tons to read. It’s been WEEKS since I’ve been able to sit at my writing desk to write for you, but I think the day is nigh. I miss my desk, I write nowhere like I write at my desk!
My new bed seems to be incredible. I think I never bought the right bed to begin with last time, and ten years of sleeping on it just destroyed me. Four NIGHTS into my new bed and the difference in my back is profound.
It’s easy when you’ve been a crash-test dummy like me in four MVAs, thrown from a scooter, thrown off a motorbike, and fallen down a flight of stairs, to dismiss bodily creaks and groans as just collateral damage from a life lived on the wild side of the “klutz” divide, but only four days in it’s obvious I’ve given my inner Little Miss Disaster too much credit. Really, my bed just sucked.
My back is finally experiencing healing after throwing $250 of medical treatment by way of massages and physio and chiropractic at it in a single week. I’m doing the same this week. Last night I even saw my bus and, without thinking, started jogging so I wouldn’t miss it — and I could jog! It didn’t hurt! So I suspect I’ll be given the green light to work out as of Thursday.
I’ve spent the last seven weeks not only in a lot of pain, but in a lot of fear and regret, too. I can’t even begin to tell you of all the emotional foraging I’ve done in the weeks while sprawled on my back on the floor in the middle of my apartment. It’s hard when your life is enveloped in pain to think of a time when that pain won’t be in the picture, or that relief might be coming your way at all.
So, while I think I’m a week, perhaps two, from being as good as I’ve ever been (yay for the kick-ass healer inside me!) I just want to make a short list of a few things to maybe be aware of if someone you care about is injured or in pain:

  • Dealing with injuries is hard physically, emotionally, chronologically, financially, socially, and
    spiritually. There is NO area of your life that is unaffacted when you’re living in chronic pain or illness. EVERY THING YOU DO is a challenge.
  • Just because they’ve stopped actively asking for your help after a week, two, or three, doesn’t mean they don’t need it. Instead, they’re probably getting overtaken by the shame of not being self-sufficient, or the anger of having to ask (not anger at having to ask YOU, but anger at having to ask anyone at all). They probably feel like they’ve become a burden, or that you’ve got better things to do. They maybe even feel like, if you wanted to help, you’d be asking to do so.
  • If you’ve never been seriously injured or incapacitated, you have to take them at their word when they tell you how angry or depressed or tired or unable they are to do what needs doing. Don’t judge them. Don’t take it personally. Don’t think they’re exaggerating for sympathy or just laying it on. You have no idea how much any injury impacts your life, let alone serious ones. Injuries and illness depress us almost universally, because they get in the way of a little thing called living. Expect that.
  • Don’t keep asking them how they’re feeling. Personally, I stopped going on MSN and answering the phone because I got tired of people saying, “So how’s your back?” Because, believe me, when they’re feeling better, you’ll know. They’ll be shouting with glee or crying from relief. I find that when people keep asking me how I’m doing when I’m in “coping” mode, it shatters my resolve and I go from keeping my emotions in check to just collapsing and sobbing because they’ve made me go past my I Can Handle This, I Will Survive mantra playing on repeat in my head, and instead they’ve reminded me of just how hard my present has been.
  • If you have offered help, and they say no at that time, don’t just do the, “Well, if you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask” safe line, because most of us have too much pride to ask. Offer again. And again. When we’re sick or injured, it’s easy to forget there’s only two rolls of toilet paper, or that the milk’s starting to sour. Help is something we always need, but the lack of pride needed for asking for it, well, that’s a tall order.
  • If you’re visiting someone sick or injured, don’t kid yourself — your presence is nice, but what would really be nice is if you took five minutes to wash a couple dishes in the sink or clean up a bit, because I guarantee you, what takes you five minutes will take them 30 or more, and the physical fall-out of their efforts is far, far worse than the inconvenience posed by you having to do a little tidying.
  • Food, food, glorious food — it may not heal all, but, without it, we’re fucked. I spent a month surviving on pizza and cereal with the occasional eggs for protein. I literally cooked one supper in a month, which nearly killed me. Bring your sickies/injured friends food — casseroles, baked goods, but healthy stuff and easy to prepare. Believe me, it’s appreciated.
  • And sometimes they might just want to bitch about how helpless and frustrated and tired they are. Let them. I had a freak-out when my friend was helping me two weeks ago — he was just sweeping something up in a corner I couldn’t reach, and I lost it, I literally screamed, “I’m so fucking tired of being so fucking useless!” He goes, “But that’s why I’m helping you!” And I continued, “YEAH, for TEN MINUTES, which I do really appreciate, but then you go home and I’m left struggling and trying to cope for the other 23 hours and 50 minutes, AND I have to work for a living! It NEVER STOPS.” And it felt fucking great to scream. I really needed to get that out, and my friend got it, he let me go there, and realized it wasn’t about him, it was about the total lack of control I felt I had over my own life. There’s nothing worse than being 35 and feeling like a child who needs her mommy — I’ve got one dead parent and the other’s in too bad of shape to help, so I went into some dark places.
  • Finally, if someone who needs help asks you for help, I know it’s a burden and it might be an inconvenience, but try to think for a moment about just how much pride they might have had to swallow just to ask you to pitch in. That five minute trip to the store for you might take them an hour, and while you’ll be irritated, they’d be in pain and much worse off for running there themselves. I found myself in tears, and often, before having to ask people for help, even though I knew they’d give it without a thought. I’m a proud, strong, independent woman who doesn’t like needing anyone for anything, ever, and playing victim for even a moment, well, it’s not something I do well, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Remember — rehabbing or getting well is unpredictable, takes a long time, and takes a lot out of us. It’s a roller coaster. I stopped reporting good days with my back because the next one always sucked again. It’s only because I’ve finally had five consecutive days of healing, and no painkillers, that I feel I’m on the road to wellness. But in the rehabbing process, I find myself torn between wanting to ride life for all it’s worth after seven weeks in isolation on my back, thus making lots of social plans, and then suddenly cancelling everything at the last minute because I find myself just unable to do it all, because although I’m feeling better, it’s still taking an awful lot out of me.
Life’s hard enough when you’re injured or sick, and just trying to cope. Don’t make them beg for your help. Don’t make them constantly dwell in it by telling you what they feel like today. Don’t make them feel like a burden when you DO help. Don’t make them feel guilty because they can’t be social. Don’t make them think too much about money (ie: don’t come over and tell them about cool shit you’re buying, places you’re going).
Just be there. Help a little. And cut them some slack.